Inspiring stories motivate me. I am always impressed by people who hang in there, and don’t give up, no matter what life throws at them. It is as if they stand, feet apart, hands on their hips, chin up and look Life straight in the eye, asking, “Come on, what is next? I can take it, I am a survivor”
Today, I have an incredible story to share with you. A positive, uplifting story about overcoming a major illness – pleural mesothelioma. This is the story of a brave family which survived the unexpected ordeals they encountered. I could completely identify with this as I have been in a similar situation as a caregiver.
I requested Cameron Von St.James, my friend, to share his story of how he defied the odds in his own words.
Inspiring stories – A Life Interrupted
How I Went From Spouse to Caregiver
You never realize how easy it is for life to shift in an instant until it happens to you. It was our best summer ever. My beautiful wife had just given birth to a perfect, squirming bundle of joy. Lily was our first child and we were so excited about beginning a new chapter in our lives as parents.
On November 21, 2005 our lives were turned upside down with a few simple words. My wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The diagnosis put Heather into a state of shock. She was frozen. Suddenly our roles changed. I had to be strong for her and make the tough decisions that she didn’t have the strength to face. My wife, who had been so strong giving birth to our daughter three months earlier, suddenly needed me to step in as her caregiver.
Nothing can prepare you for the role of a caregiver to a sick patient. It requires a different kind of strength from what was necessary in our daily roles as parents, employees and partners. The full time jobs we held prior to the diagnosis had to be abandoned. Heather quit her job and I dropped down to part time in order to accommodate her care.
The first of many decisions I helped make with Heather was to receive treatment from Dr. David Sugarbaker of Boston. He specialized in mesothelioma and was experienced in treating cases similar to Heather’s. The location of his practice put additional pressure on an already overwhelming schedule. I was responsible for arranging travel, booking hotels and caring for Lily. My life became a juggling act of shuttling between work, cancer treatments with Heather and all the commitments that come with having an infant daughter.
Being a caregiver to my wife completely removed us from our normal interactions. Before the cancer our relationship was all about sharing responsibilities, leaning on each other and compromise. After the diagnosis, I had to be strong enough for both of us. I had to take on all responsibilities and present a calm demeanor to my wife. I needed to show her strength and calm so that she could use all her energy to fight the cancer. Keeping up appearances of a positive attitude around Heather while fears of her death and possible financial ruin lurked in my mind is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Many times out of sight of Heather and Lily I would break down with uncontrollable sobs.
However, I learned to cope in time. I learned to lean on the loving people around us, and accept their generous offers of help. My strongest advice to any caregiver out there is to accept every offer of help you receive, big or small. Every offer of help is one less responsibility for you to worry about, and above all else it will serve as a reminder that you are not alone in this fight.
Seven years later
Seven years later, I am happy to say my little family has never been better. After grueling mesothelioma treatment, Heather is cancer free, and Lily is a healthy little girl. The trials I went through only made me a stronger person for my family. I realized that I needed to be sure our future was secure.
I enrolled in an Information Technology program at a great school. Balancing my studies and work seemed like a breeze after what I had recently been through. I graduated with high honors and was asked to speak at my ceremony. As I delivered my speech, my eyes misted up thinking of everything I had been through to get to this stage.
Being a caregiver was the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, but it was also the most rewarding. If you find yourself in a situation like mine, remember to never give up hope, and always keep fighting for the ones you love. You may find that you are capable of accomplishing more than you ever imagined was possible.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, Cameron.
Cameron recently participated in a short video about his wife’s cancer experience, which they hope to use to raise awareness and support for people fighting illness, and the caregivers who fight alongside them. Here is the link to the video: www.mesothelioma.com/heather
Life will throw unexpected challenges. Sometimes things seem hopeless.
But I’ve often found that when we are ready to face these challenges, we come out stronger than ever before.
Did you enjoy reading this story?
Do you find motivation through inspiring stories?
Do you have a story to share?
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email me at vidya at vidyasury dot com
Never give up hope!